Today, Claire Lynch is best known as a stellar lead vocalist, session vocalist, and songwriter. She has been named IBMA Female Vocalist of the Year twice, and gathered numerous IBMA and Grammy nominations. While she has led the Claire Lynch Band since 2005, she got her star fronting the Alabama-based Front Porch String Band in the 1970s. Rebel Records has recently released Hills of Alabam, a collection of some of the Front Porch String Band’s best tunes from the 1980s and 90s.
Twelve of the album’s thirteen tracks are drawn from two albums: 1983’s self-titled release, and Lines and Traces from 1991. One additional song is pulled from Mark Newton’s 2000 collaborative effort, Follow Me Back to the Fold. That tune, the popular Lynch composition The Day That Lester Died,is a touching tribute in which Lynch reflects on how Lester Flatt has influenced both her and the world of bluegrass music.
The rest of the album will serve well as either a great introduction to, or fond reminder of Lynch’s early work. Four of the tracks are written or cowritten by Claire, including the sweet love song I Found You and the folk-country title track, a standout song which expresses a road-weary musician’s desire to just be home again. Another Lynch composition is the closing track, Come Unto Me, a very traditional bluegrass Gospel number featuring nice harmonies.
The album also includes the group’s renderings of a couple traditional pieces. Stephen Foster’s Hard Times is cheerful and bluegrassy, while Wabash Cannonball is rendered in a progressive fashion with some interesting banjo work. Another excellent cut is Kennesaw Line, written by Don Oja-Dunnaway and given a stripped-down country treatment here. This song, while not written during the time period it describes, does a great job in relating the story of the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain from a soldier’s perspective.
Overall, these tunes have a folk/Americana feel and even though they were recorded under the name of the Front Porch String Band, Lynch is the centerpiece here. Her sweet, airy vocals are featured on each of the songs, with two different versions of the Front Porch String Band (including some very talented musicians) backing her up. Both editions of the band showcased here included Lynch on guitar and her husband (at the time) Larry Lynch on mandolin, Bouzouki, and lead guitar. 1983’s lineup featured Allen Watkins (banjo) and Terry Campbell (bass), while Andy Meginniss played bass and Herb Trotman was on banjo for the 1991 album.
Hills of Alabam can be purchased from various online music retailers, including Amazon and iTunes. The album is also available at Airplay Direct for radio programmers.